When it comes to inspiring employees, it’s easy to get caught up in big-picture ideas like corporate slogans and company-wide programs. But some of the most effective — and simplest — strategies for motivating your team are those that are built into the culture of your company.
Here are four simple, everyday things you can do to inspire your employees.
Regularly praise success
Sounds logical, right? But you’d be surprised how often managers can forget to praise (or even acknowledge) great work. So, let’s say it again: managers can inspire employees by praising their successes, and encouraging them to keep up the good work. As Richard Branson puts it, “When you lavish praise on people, they flourish. Criticize, and they shrivel up.”
Sure, this could mean a grand gesture like holding an internal awards ceremony where you dole out accolades to top performers — but praising success can also be done in smaller, more meaningful ways, like sending a team member an email to thank them for a good idea, or starting daily meetings with a few shout-outs to colleagues in front of their peers.
Build fun into the daily grind
The 9-to-5 workday can be a grind, so it’s important for managers to infuse a bit of fun into each day.
“Work is work, but it doesn’t have to be dull and pedantic,” writes Dianna Podmoroff in the book 365 Ways to Motivate and Reward Your Employees Every Day. “The best places to work are those where people don’t take themselves too seriously, they allow themselves to be goofy, and they enjoy at least one laugh a day.”
So how can managers bring that daily chuckle? Podmoroff suggests including jokes or cartoons — or a meme, perhaps — in your daily team emails. You could also tape gift certificates, like a $5 card for the nearest coffee shop, under random seats at daily meetings to surprise colleagues. It might not seem like much, but these little gestures can lighten the mood and help motivate your team.
Take time to touch base
Money isn’t the top motivating factor for employees. As a 2014 poll from employee engagement firm TinyPulse found, camaraderie is actually the number one motivating factor.
It’s worth it, then, for managers to foster a culture of openness and encourage employees to build friendships with their peers on a daily basis. How do you do this? By encouraging things like coffee breaks and lunches, providing opportunities for members in different departments to connect, and supporting things like a social committee.
But don’t forget that this kind of culture starts from the top; managers should check in with their staff as much as possible. This goes beyond discussions about work matters – ask them about their lives, hobbies, interests, and adventures. The more interested you are, the more engaged they will be.
Inspire by example
Inspiring employees isn’t just about acing your yearly company-wide speech: It’s leading by example every day by showing good judgement, respecting your colleagues, and showcasing kindness in your daily business dealings.
Mary Crossan, a professor at Western University’s Ivey School of Business, says that strong leadership can be contagious.
“You can create effective character contagion between a leader or manager and other individuals in the organization just by being that person,” she says.